Paul Pierce Reveals The Five Toughest Players He’s Ever Guarded And #1 Will Surprise You

By 11.20.16
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Paul Pierce has enjoyed a stellar 18-year NBA playing career, spending 15 of those years in Boston before bouncing around to Brooklyn, Washington, and his current stint with the Los Angeles Lakers. His resume is among the most impressive for current active players–NBA Champion, NBA Finals MVP, 10-time All-Star. Throughout his nearly two-decade career, he’s often been assigned to defend the opponents’ most electric player.

In a recent write up for The Players Tribune, the 39-year-old Inglewood native revealed which the top 5 toughest players he’s ever had to guard.

 

5.) Kobe Bryant

Boston Celtics v Los Angeles Lakers

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One of the toughest games I remember playing against Kobe happened in Boston. I think he made seven or eight shots in a row on me. So we come into the huddle during a timeout and Coach is looking at me with a face that I knew meant he wanted me to switch off of Kobe. And the rest of the guys on the team could see what was happening and they were looking at me too. Finally they bring up that maybe we should switch and put a different guy on him, and I yelled, “Hell no! I’m going to guard him! I got this!”

He ended up missing the last nine shots of that game with me on him, and we won. But the stat sheet is still vivid in my mind. Kobe took 47 shots. Forty-seven. No one has ever taken 47 shots on me. Most games a team will get up 81 to 89 shots.

What you have to understand about Kobe’s game is that by taking that many shots, he’s meticulously wearing down the defender until he breaks them. He’s made a career out of making guys lose confidence in their defense and then continuing to attack them. He’s won five rings doing that.

If you want to have any defensive success against Kobe, you can’t break. That’s much easier said than done.

4.) Tracy McGrady

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Tracy is a point guard in a small forward’s body. He’s 6-9, has long arms and can jump out of the gym, so every time he went up to shoot there was no point even trying to block it.

And if a guy with an unblockable shot heats up, well, that’s not good. But limiting transition points against a guy with the physical talent of Tracy was just a nightmare. He was such a tremendous finisher. He’s fast, he’s long and he could jump higher than anybody. And if that wasn’t enough, he was one of the better ball handlers in the league.

He’s a rare talent, and when you were up against him, you knew you were in for a tough game because he always had the green light.

3.) Vince Carter

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This term gets thrown out a lot to describe NBA players, but with Vince it absolutely fits: This guy is just an athletic freak. In the late ’90s and early 2000s we had some serious battles.

Nobody wants to be on a Vince Carter highlight. In his prime, you knew he was going to get four or five highlights every game. And I’d always be thinking about that before we played against him. My mission would always be not to make the Vince Carter highlight reel, so before the game even started, he was already in my head.

2.) LeBron James

Miami Heat v Boston Celtics

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A 6-8, roughly 260 lb point guard/shooting guard.

How ridiculous is that?

And at his size, he’s still hands down the most athletic and fastest player in the league. Who ever heard of a guy that’s 6-8, 260 lbs being faster than everybody else in the NBA — and stronger?

He’s just a caliber of physical specimen that this league has never seen before. A lot of the other guys I talk about on this list are tall, wiry, skinny athletic types, but LeBron is just as athletic as they are, but he’s also stronger and faster.

You can bet that after you guard LeBron, you’re going to be sore all over for the next few days.

1.) Carmelo Anthony

New York Knicks v Boston Celtics - Game Three

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If I had to single one guy out who is the most difficult player to guard in the league, it would have to be Carmelo. He’s a unique blend of being big, strong, and athletic while also having a world-class shooting touch and a natural ability to get to the rim. That’s what sets him apart — every facet of his game is elite.

Kobe is one of the best scorers in NBA history, but I don’t have as much trouble with him in the post as I do with Carmelo. LeBron is a great post-up player, but if you get him to settle for the jumper on some nights, you might be able to slow him down if his shot is off. That’s not the case with Melo. If you give him space to shoot, he’ll make it many more times than he misses it.

To put it plainly, he’s not a fun assignment on defense.

But then again, none of these guys are.

[h/t The Players Tribune]

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